Martin Berkofsky

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Martin Berkofsky

Martin Berkofsky (1943 – 30 December 2013) was an American classical pianist known primarily for his interpretations of music by Franz Liszt and Alan Hovhaness. He performed extensively throughout Europe as well as in Turkey and Armenia.

Early career and activities[edit]

Born in Washington, D.C., of Belarussian ancestry, Berkofsky began giving public performances from a young age. Later studies were with the Polish pianist Mieczysław Munz, with Konrad Wolff, and Walter Hautzig, as well as with Hans Kann in Vienna.

Some of Berkofsky's earliest professional engagements were as a member of New York's Long Island Chamber Ensemble, of which he was pianist for three years. In 1971 the ensemble met the composer Alan Hovhaness, and they subsequently gave an all-Hovhaness concert at Carnegie Recital Hall which including the premiere of Hovhaness's Saturn, op. 243, which Hovhaness had written for the ensemble.

Martin was also an avid amateur radio operator. Marty was active on VHF in the suburban MD area during his high school years. Later, he assembled a formidable VHF/UHF station on his property in Virginia.

During his early years he traveled to Europe and twice recorded the long-lost Concerto for Two Pianos and Orchestra of Max Bruch. The first time was with the pianist Nathan Twining and London Symphony Orchestra in 1974. When sole copyright to Bruch's work was allegedly claimed by Twining, Berkofsky successfully campaigned to return the rights of the music to the family of the composer, allowing them to publish the score with Simrock, Bruch's original publisher.[citation needed] The second recording was with pianist David Hagan and the Berlin Symphony Orchestra in 1978. Berkofsky also did similar restoration of a duo piano concerto composed jointly by Felix Mendelssohn and Ignaz Moscheles.[citation needed] In addition, he discovered in Paris and subsequently edited and published a previously unknown manuscript by Franz Liszt.[citation needed]

Later activities[edit]

After recovering from a motorcycle accident in Iceland in 1982, Berkofsky donated proceeds from some of his performances to various charitable causes. He later founded the Cristofori Foundation to facilitate this purpose.

To celebrate his 60th birthday and recovery from cancer, Berkofsky embarked on a marathon concert tour, "Celebrate Life Run," running 880 miles across America's heartland and raising over US$80,000 for cancer research. A second marathon six years later "All Men are Brothers" named after a symphony of Alan Hovhaness, was run by Berkofsky from the summit of New Hampshire's Mount Monadnock, to the Arlington, Massachusetts boyhood home of the composer. In 2009, Berkofsky participated in a concert to fund and unveil a memorial to Hovhaness in Arlington.

In 2004, he presented the first Armenian performance of Hovhaness's piano concerto Lousadzak (1944), with the Alan Hovhaness Chamber Orchestra of Yerevan. Together with pianist Atakan Sarı he gave the world premiere performance in Moscow of Hovhaness' 1954 Concerto for Two Pianos and Orchestra with the Globalis Symphony Orchestra. In 2005 he presented the Turkish premiere of Lousadzak with the Orchestra Academic Başkent, Ankara, perhaps the first performance of a Hovhaness work in that nation. That same year, his and Atakan Sari's recording of Hovhaness' Concerto for Two Pianos and Orchestra was released. In November 2006, again with Sarı, he gave the Armenian premiere of the Hovhaness Concerto for Two Pianos and Orchestra, with the Armenian Philharmonic Orchestra in Yerevan. Another Hovhaness Armenian premiere was given in April, 2008, with the Armenian Philharmonic Orchestra in Yerevan, this time, Hovhaness' early "Prayer-Piano Concerto for Symphony Orchestra." At the same time, Berkofsky was awarded a Diploma by the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Armenia for his services to Armenian music.[citation needed] For a number of years he was one of the coordinators of a project to establish a central archive of Hovhaness' work in Yerevan, Armenia.

Personal life[edit]

Berkofsky lived in Casanova, Virginia and later Warrenton, Virginia. He lived in Iceland from 1982 until 1987.[citation needed] He died from cancer on 30 December 2013.[1]


Berkofsky has recorded for the EMI, Arts, Cristofori, Sanctuary/Black Box, Koch International, Crystal, Vox Allegretto, Nimbus, Vox-Turnabout, FONO, Angel, Poseidon Society, and Musical Heritage Society labels.



  1. ^ "The man who discovered two-piano concertos" by Norman Lebrecht and Roberto Prosseda, Slipped Disc, 31 December 2013

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